57 Communists and 100,000 jobs

We’ve already had one post-modern Presidency, under Bush the Lesser. Do we want another under Romney?

The Joe McCarthy character in The Manchurian Candidate can’t keep track of how many Communists he’s claiming have infiltrated the government, so his wife – also  his KGB handler – picks the number 57 off a Heinz ketchup bottle and tells him that’s the official number.

It’s been clear for some time that Mitt Romney’s “100,000 jobs created” number has essentially the same provenance as “57 Communists.” When challenged on the number earlier, the surrogate super-PAC that was running ads based on it simply said “We aren’t supplying that information.” Now the campaign claims that the figure is a gross figure, based mostly on job growth at Staples, while the candidate himself insists that it’s a “net-net” figure.

Too much to hope, of course, that reporters other than Glenn Kessler and Calvin Woodward will do actual reporting on this, but it’s possible that the Democrats will be able to keep it alive. I like Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s “job cremator” line, and I hope we hear more of it.

Of course in real life “job creation” is a slippery concept, and how Romney operated his vulture-capitalist enterprise isn’t all that relevant to his potential as a President.  But his utterly post-modern attitude toward fact – leading him to make what Orwell referred to as statements not even bearing as much relationship to the truth as an ordinary honest lie – is a central character issue. It is no accident, comrades, that Romney is Karl Rove’s favorite candidate.




Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

23 thoughts on “57 Communists and 100,000 jobs”

  1. Romney as rubber vulture? It would make a good campaign toy.

    I have a rubber bat which I once used at a conference on religious education as a prop for a reference to Thomas Nagel’s famous paper “What is it like to be a bat?”. The other prop was a jar of Marmite, which Brits and Aussies consider a comfort food but everybody else sees as inferior axle grease. The question was whether the difficulty of intercultural understanding is more like the easy Marmite barrier or the more fundamental bat one. My money was on Marmite.

  2. Mark, I know you really really dislike the guy… but still it’s impressive the way you managed to use a “tell” from this movie to weave allusions to both McCarthy and the notion of a fake, robotic candidate controlled by sinister forces into this one short post!

  3. Not liking the evidence that was supplied (and you can easily get the numbers from his campaign if you contact them) and not liking the volume of information supplied is not the same thing as ‘making it up.’ Seriously, that is some flawed logic. You’re implying that because he could only provide evidence of job creation from 3 companies that in reality he may not be a job creator- but without any evidence that he has fired people and closed companies and destroyed jobs, the opposite may be true as well and he may be an even better job creator than he suggests.

    He does need to provide more information and evidence, that is for sure, but compared to the other guy (Obama), his record and the transparency of his past actions is night and day.

    All of this probably doesn’t matter to you- you’ve arrived at your conclusion already and are going to ignore facts and data and logic in your quest to justify your ends.

    1. When the evidence presented in support of a claim is nonsense then the claim can fairly be described as having been made up. It’s not a question of liking or disliking the evidence. It’s a question of seeing whether it is valid. Romney’s “evidence” is nonsensical for any number of reasons.

  4. Romney’s camp has been breathing a sigh of relief that the current media hasn’t the sense to follow up on the bullshit it is throwing at us. Romney can double down on the 100,000 jobs number, and his FOX allies may inflate it to 150,000, simply because, the figures are true if one recognizes the figures include the jobs Romney’s firm created in other countries when they outsourced the liquified assets of its leveraged acquisitions!

    Romney’s smarmy smile will turn to a frown only when the press begins to reveal just how much he bet against America and its job market when he was using the land of opportunity to grow wealth! Until then, Romney is free to lie, unabated!

  5. How Romney operated his vulture-capitalist enterprise is as relevant to his potential as president as a convicted thief’s potential as a bank teller.

    1. Agreed. Mark, your statement really doesn’t make sense, doubly so after watching Bush II take his lifelong career of f*cking up and not taking responsibility into the White House.

  6. The fact is that this is a totally bogus issue. Romney ran an investment company. It didn’t create jobs, it invested in new or existing businesses which employed people. He was an investor, not a job creator. And, in any event, all of this has absolutely nothing to do with his merits as a possible President. Presidents don’t run a business; they are responsible for directing foreign policy and for attempting (subject to Congressional cooperation) to set public policy.

    1. “Job creation” is a bogus issue, reflective of the broader bogosity that is the entire Romney campaign. Romney’s dishonesty about job creation goes right to the heart of why he shouldn’t be President.

    2. First of all, for better or worse, it’s Mitt Romney who claims that his private-sector experience makes him a better candidate. So he’s the one to argue with if you think it isn’t relevant.

      Secondly, I’d argue there is an important difference, one having to do with philosophy. Pure, unalloyed free-market capitalism is a very selfish enterprise, and often destructive. You’re out to maximize your returns, and you don’t care what happens to those caught in your wake. You don’t build when it’s more profitable to destroy, and you don’t build to code unless you’ve no choice. There is a place for all of this (I’d argue it’s under the thumb of a regulatory structure that protects potential victims and a tax structure that ensures strong social supports and robust opportunity), but it entails a completely different outlook than it takes to run a large, cooperative, long-term enterprise like a country. It’s certainly possible to pump-and-dump a country (look at George Dubya!), and it will make you look good for a while, but it’s a disaster for millions upon millions of your citizens in the longer run. The fact that Mitt Romney is proud of such undertakings is not a good sign.

    3. In addition, as far as I’ve heard, Romney’s methods involved declaring banktruptcy as a normal business practice. That’s fraud.

  7. it’s at times like these that a sentence used by my physics buddies should be employed. it originated by wolfgang pauli: “it’s not even wrong!” (es ist nicht einmal falsch!)

  8. Did Staples really create more jobs in the office supply industry or merely move jobs from other companies to a better or worse paying job at Staples?


    1. Of COURSE many of the jobs at Staples were “created” by “cremating” jobs at smaller office supply and stationery stores. Same with Home Depot and hardware stores.

      The amazing thing to me is NOT that Romney and Republicans generally pretend otherwise. The amazing thing to me is that they seem confident that the American public is stupid enough to fall for their pretense.


  9. Democrats want to talk about to bogusity of “jobs created or saved” numbers? Democrats?

    Irony is dead.

    1. Brett,

      There is a huge difference – a difference of kind – between evaluating the effects of policy on national employment figures and the isolated single-company data points Romney is talking about.

      There are reasonable ways to estimate the former. There’s room for discussion, and it’s not an exact science, but it’s not remotely bogus. Romney’s claim that the total number of employees at (only) the companies where Bain made successful investments represents jobs he “created” is, by contrast, totally bogus.

      1. “There are reasonable ways to estimate the former.”

        Which mostly involve looking at the number of jobs before and after, and subtracting one number from the other. Then there are unreasonable ways to estimate it, by projecting arbitrary numbers of jobs lost if you hadn’t acted, and attributing any difference between your own projection and reality to your actions, not your projection.

        I think calculating the number of people you’ve personally hired is actually less arbitrary.

        1. That’s actually not reasonable at all, Brett.

          Why assume that the employment situation, which was steadily getting worse, would have miraculously stabilized without the stimulus? Why is that better than trying to analyze the data – not, as you describe it, projecting arbitrary numbers – to see what the likely trend is?

          In fact, it is you, not the Administration, that is making an arbitrary projection. “Employment will stabilize,” with no supporting reasons given, is a pretty arbitrary projection, it seems to me.

          Let’s say it’s late afternoon – 5PM – and the temperature in your house is falling as it gets colder outside. You turn on the heat and warm things up. At 11PM would you claim that the only difference the furnace made was to warm up the house by the difference between the 5PM inside temperature and the 11PM inside temperature? Of course not. Yet that’s the argument you’re making.

          1. I’m not sure what the graph is supposed to prove, Brett.

            Among other things, it’s known that the situation in late 2008-early 2009 was in fact much worse than was thought. Hence, projections made at that time were necessarily overoptimistic. Still, it’s worth noting that non-Administration sources like CBO and Moody’s (chief economist Mark Zandi) have concluded that the stimulus was effective, though of course estimates of the size of the effect vary.

        2. “Which mostly involve looking at the number of jobs before and after, and subtracting one number from the other.”


  10. What it demonstrates, Byomtov, is that economists don’t really have the ability to predict the future. Lacking that ability, declaring that you’ve saved/created X number of jobs on the basis of the difference between a prediction and the actual outcome is bogus, because the prediction itself is bogus.

    Now, if employment numbers had actually followed that lower curve, you might have some reason to think that economists can predict economic numbers before they happen, rather than just after, and taking a claim of jobs saved on the basis of the difference between two theoretical projections wouldn’t be such a joke.

    But that’s not the world we actually live in.

    Now, if you actually hire somebody, you’ve actually got an objective basis for saying you created a job. But based on predictions that don’t actually predict? That’s a sick joke.

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